Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Moses Michael Stiver

In Case You Missed It...
We are overjoyed to announce (again) the adoption of our son Moses Michael Stiver. Moses was born on July 18th, 2007, spent his first eight years of life in an orphanage and was adopted into our family on August 27th, 2015. It has been quite the journey...

Since before we got married, we knew that one of the ways that we would build our family would be through adoption. God has preciously seared the needs of orphaned children onto our hearts. This compassion has compelled us to raise our own family in Tanzania as we seek to minister to orphans and inspire and empower nationals to care for them as their own. Knowing that adoption was in our own plans as a family, we were expectant to see how God would move in this area. 

When we were in the states over the holidays and surrounding Shepherd's birth, God began to speak to us about beginning the adoption process. We can honestly say that how quick it all took place was not in our minds a year ago (when we only had Promise and Shep was still on the way). In many ways, it all began at an adoption and orphan care conference in San Luis Obispo that Brandon held a workshop in. The keynote speaker, Johnny Carr, challenged the oft-held mindset of only adopting within birth order, hence predominantly adopting babies; a mindset that we ourselves had adopted (no pun intended). Melissa began pondering the challenge and we began discussing the chances of adopting out of birth order and considering an older child that is in need.

Once we decided that we were open to adopting an older child, God almost immediately placed Moses on Melissa's heart. In short order, she brought it up to Brandon and this profound moment of understanding came upon both of us: Moses was the one we were to pursue. 

Moses never knew his biological father and his identity is unknown by his family of origin. Moses' mother passed away of meningitis when he was only a month old. A few days after her death, he was brought to social welfare and soon thereafter Treasures of Africa Children's Home in Moshi. 

As you all know our story, you know that our first two years of ministry in Tanzania took place at Treasures of Africa and this is where we began building relationship with Moses and the other children at the orphanage. These children have always been so special to us and it was a blessing and honor to serve them there. 

When we returned to Tanzania in January 2014 after a 20-month hiatus in the states, we visited the precious children there. Moses immediately stuck out to us as we saw a significant change in him. Naturally a lively and outgoing child, Moses had become increasingly withdrawn and lonesome. The life of an orphan had worn him down and changes in his life circumstances had stolen his childish joy. Our hearts broke for him all over again.

As this picture of Moses remained impressed on our hearts, it was no wonder that God brought him to mind when we decided that we'd be willing to adopt an older child. Through continued prayer and discussion, we decided to begin the pursuit of adoption upon returning to Tanzania in February 2015. 

God was gracious enough to give us somewhat of a preview of raising a child of this age when our friend Cyrus Helbling came to live with us for nearly three months. During that time we began by submitting the idea of adopting Moses to our friends Warren and Christina Oberst, who are the directors at Treasures of Africa. They responded, "we've been praying that Moses, in particular, would find a family. If he doesn't find a family, it's not going to go well for him." Their response was overwhelmingly encouraging and confirmed what we sensed God had already begun working on. We were blessed to be the answer to those prayers. Afterward, we met with Rita Langeland (our former boss) who also gave her whole hearted approval and blessing. We are so, so grateful for the hearts of these people for Moses and adoption of orphans into families. 

From there we hired an adoption lawyer in Arusha. We are immensely thankful for his hard work to get this done in a remarkably quick fashion. We first met him at the end of March and entered into an agreement two weeks later to have him direct the legalization of our adoption. Through all the ups and downs, hiring a good lawyer saw us through the process. From our first meeting in April, we began gathering all necessary documents and working with Moses' existing relatives in the nearby village of Mabungo. Our adoption petition was submitted to the high court of Tanzania in June. 

Our first court date was set for mid July, just a few days before Moses' 8th birthday. There was a tremendous build-up for us emotionally and we felt as though we ran into a brick wall when the social welfare officer failed to show up and had not yet submitted his home study report. We re-convened for two weeks later. That second date was also unfruitful as the judge had been called away shortly before our scheduled hearing. We again adjourned for two weeks for a date in mid-August. During that time, it became evident that we had to do more work with the family of origin, specifically Moses' grandmother. Because of a misunderstanding with the family, we had to again adjourn until the end of August.

On the day of our actual hearing, Brandon got up well before dawn to pick up Moses' 80 year old grandmother in Mabungo (45 minutes away from Moshi), then drove back to Moshi to get the rest of the family and caravan to court with Warren from Treasures of Africa. We arrived at the high court at 8:30 and all the stars had aligned. The social welfare officer was there with report submitted. The grandmother, a wonderful Christian woman, had given her consent and testified to the judge. Our lawyer was on top of it and made our case well. Each of us submitted our testimony (Brandon even submitted his in Swahili for the grandmother's benefit). Towards the end of the hearing, the judge called Moses up to her and simply asked him if he gave his consent to be adopted into our family. He said yes. 

A week later, on August 27th, a text message from our lawyer told us that our petition to adopt Moses had been approved and granted.

The truth is there are so many more levels to this story across all fronts - emotionally, relationally, spiritually and so on. We'll be sharing these on our blogs in the coming weeks, months and years (Melissa's already begun). But truly, this is a story of God's grace and providence. We serve a God who sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68) and ordains adoption. This process has been, honestly, the most exhausting and difficult undertaking that we've ever gone through. In the same breath, we can tell you that this is our greatest blessing to receive another child into our family. Moses' adoption, in the same way as Promise's and Shepherd's births, is the best gift that we can receive from God. 

We are so grateful for those of you reading this that have played a role in our own lives. We couldn't have pursued God's calling on our lives for family and ministry without the love and support of our family and friends in the US and in Tanzania. If you are a family member, a friend or a supporter, this is your story too. Though at times we feel that we don't say it enough, we are grateful for you. Thank you. 

Please remember our family in prayer. This remains a big transition for all of us and many days we find ourselves tired and/or frustrated. But God's grace is sufficient and your prayers are appreciated. We look forward to sharing with you more in the coming days.

Brandon, Melissa, Moses, Promise and Shepherd
The Stivers in Tanzania

We'd love for you to follow along with our blogs too. Brandon has a series of adoption/orphan care blogs coming up soon and Melissa continues blogging about life, motherhood and ministry as well.

Brandon // Build This Kingdom

Our family at Promise's third birthday party


A beautiful story--a beautiful family!

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